It’s the largest and most luxurious hotel on the still-untouched Puerto Rican island of Vieques — the W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island. And when there’s something you need, or something you need to find, Hiram Cabral is the man for the job. The property’s W Insider talks to Caribbean Concierge about the hotel and his recommendations for a vacation on the island.
Where are you from, and how long have you been working at the property?
My Name is Hiram L. Cabral, and I was born and raised on Vieques Island. Since childhood I’ve been passionate about art and design, and what started as a hobby eventually became my college career. Today, I am the W Insider at W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island. Every W property has a W Insider. We live and represent the energy of the hotel. We are responsible for giving our guests access into the world of “wow.” We keep up with what’s new in fashion, design and music and bring those elements to life at the property.
What do you like most about Vieques?
In Vieques my favourite spots are nearly endless. If I had to choose, I would say Red Beach, since it’s perfect for enjoying the sunrise and also Rompe Olas which is where I exercise and meditate while I observe nature. The restaurants are varied and even though they might look like discreet little structures they often surprise and surpass the expectations of the most demanding palates. Food is prepared fresh each day and there are seasonal specials, which means visitors are always in for a surprise. Vieques captivates me on a daily basis through its sunsets, beaches, varied landscape and overall nature that I truly miss when I leave the island.
What’s your favorite part of working at the hotel?
What I love the most is making our guests feel at home as if they were our longtime friends visiting the island. We step outside of the ordinary at W hotels. It’s an everyday rule. I enjoy the opportunity to innovate and I take advantage of it by thinking of inventive ways to surprise our visitors. Every day I think to myself, what’s new and exciting out there? Once I have an understanding of what’s next, I strive to provide that experience for guests before they see it anywhere else.
What’s the most interesting or difficult request you’ve received from a guest?
Once when I was still an ambassador [at the W], there was a bride who brought along her little dog and requested I carry it throughout the ceremony and during the party. I then saw their wedding photos and I spotted myself in the background carrying the little dog in all of the shots. They were so happy with how our team went above and beyond that they have returned twice since, always with their little dog in their arms of course!
What’s something most people don’t know about visiting the destination that they should?
While Vieques is part of Puerto Rico less than eight miles off the coast, it has its own unique island culture with a completely different look and feel. To get there, guests take a short 20 minute flight from the main island or a 40 minute ferry ride. It’s an entirely separate experience than traditional escapes to Puerto Rico. Also, Vieques is an island where nature reigns, as ¾ of the land is classified as Wildlife Refuge and are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This means that the pristine state of nature and beaches, on our island brings simple infrastructure; we have no fast food restaurants, no chains, and the only establishment that operates 24/7 is W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island. Vieques is home to the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay, yet we don’t have a single traffic light on the island. It’s one of the rare destinations to explore nature in its truest form.
What are some attractions in Vieques you recommend to guests?
One of the best tours is kayaking on Puerto Mosquito, which is also known as the Bioluminescent Bay. The Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques is one of the world’s brightest bays, so the experience is unique compared to other bays around the world. When you kayak over the water at night, vibrant green and blue lights start glowing in the water as you row. The lights come from microorganisms that literally light up when you disturb the water. If you happen to be kayaking when it starts to rain, the entire bay lights up in the dark.
It’s one of the rare destinations to explore nature in its truest form.”
I also recommend visiting at least one of more than twelve beaches on Vieques Island, all of which are completely different from one another. Guests can rent a Jeep directly at W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island’s on-site car rental agency, grab a picnic basket from W Café and set off to explore the island.
Where is your favourite place to eat off property?
One of my favorite spots is Bilí, a local restaurant owned by Eva Bolivar who was once a chef for the Puerto Rican government. Bilí is located in Esperanza, a nearby town just a short distance from the hotel that sits right next to the Caribbean Sea. There’s a super cool and authentic island atmosphere around this place. I also love the coconut and lime drink at Next Course because it’s an unusual flavor combination for a frozen drink here on the island. Next Course has a romantic atmosphere and it feels like you are in the middle of the rainforest.
Where is your favourite bar off property?
I like Next Door, ‘By Sabores Restaurant,’ with its cozy interior patio decorated with a Caribbean feel. Their cocktails are good and you can order appetizers to snack along while you sip. Also, it is right next to Sabores Restaurant so you can ‘hop’ from a dinner to a bar atmosphere without actually having to leave one place!
If you had to recommend one experience in Vieques, what would it be?
You simply can’t leave without exploring at least one of more than twelve beaches on Vieques Island, all of which are completely diverse. Adventure seekers can rent a Jeep directly at W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island’s on-site car rental agency, grab a picnic basket from W Café and set off to explore the island.